“Traveling light is always a plus, so just having a wireless In-ear rack doesn’t take up much space during travel and can easily be paced on a plane for one-off events.”
Jojo Vitagliano—Sound Engineer
Hey there and thank you for taking the time to talk with us. I know that it’s a busy time of year for you. So before we get into it, who are you out with right now and what’s the rest of your year looking like?
After the winter season with the Daptone Records family, I am taking time to focus on my home gig as the House Audio & Production Manager for the Asbury Lanes, a 400 cap music venue in Asbury Park, NJ. We are in the process of doing a complete production transformation. We recently changed the layout of the venue increasing capacity and updating the stage, audio, and lighting.
Got it. So how did it all start for you?
I’ve been involved in the audio world since high school. Soon after I started working in local venues as a stage hand and learned as much as possible. I started buying audio pieces and building a small P.A. system to do local VFW style shows. Within a few years, I had a good amount of equipment, a one room rehearsal studio, and a new and used music instrument shop. The shop closed after a few years so I partnered up with Rob Paliaga, a friend who was also building a P.A system. Together we had multiple complete systems to handle a verity of events.
So what are your primary responsibilities when you’re on the road? How about when you’re home?
On the road I have had different roles. As a monitor engineer for Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, I was responsible for traveling with the artist’s In-Ear system, setting up the back line and stage with the band’s front of house engineer David Liles, doubling as a stage tech, along with other duties. Other times, I mixed Front of House for other Daptone Artists as well as River City Extension. I have also been a Stage Manager for some larger events such as the Daptone Super Soul Review — a showcase of their artists as a 3 hour nonstop 6 band performance. I was responsible for making the seamless transition between bands and for making sure all the microphones were moved in the correct places for each set. I also had our monitor engineer build me my own In-Ear Mix so I could keep an ear out for anything sounding different like a microphone knocked out of place.
When I am home, I am at the Asbury Lanes. There I am responsible for advancing events, scheduling the production staff, repairing broken gear, and responsible for renting supplemental gear for larger events (owning an audio company makes the rentals easy.) Some of these tasks, like advancing and scheduling were also done from the road. As an owner, I am responsible for handling rental orders and small audio events. I also run the rehearsal studio where artists take care of tour preparations, writing processes, or pre-recording productions.
So since you’re part of the sound company, I imagine you get the luxury of having complete control over the gear that you carry. What’s your set up look like?
It varies for each tour. Ideally a Digidesign Profile to mix on, but a Midas H3000 will trump all. With some artists we carry a few microphones, an In-ear system, a pair of Wireless Mics, among other things
Do you ship everything internationally or do you rent overseas?
We carry our essentials —In-Ears and microphones. Consoles and wedges are waiting for us.
What’s your favorite piece of equipment? What’s the gear that you just couldn’t live without?
Sennheiser MD 421. the versatility of them is great I put them on everything.
So when did you first start working with in-ears?
I first tried In-ears when I was a drummer. Being left handed, the drum monitor was either on the opposite side of the kit or non existent. I bought myself a little mixer and a pair of generic ear buds and made myself a title hardwired set up. As a house monitor engineer for some events, some artist bring in an In-ear system so I got to be familiar with setting them up and mixing to In-ears and not wedges.
Perfect! So you’re the exact person that I want to talk to about this. As we all know, in-ears are pointless if you don’t have the full system. But there is a lot of misinformation out there about what it takes to design a proper personal monitoring system. As an engineer and as a sound company guy, can we talk about this in detail? Can you tell us about your full in-ear rig set-up. I want to know about your rack, your antennas, your connectors, the whole deal.
With the Dap Kings, Sharon is the only one using In ears so our full in ear rig is small. We travel with it in a small pelican case. It contains a Sennheiser EW300 IEM G3 system with two receivers. One for the artist and for me so I can tail her mix. We also carry a Sennheiser A 1031-U. which is a smaller antenna. We also carry 2 sets of UE-18’s molded for Sharon (one for backups) and my set of UE-7’s.
Nice. And for a full band that is just starting out making the transition to ears?
Carry a full In-ear rack. This includes an Allen and Heath Mixwizard3 12M (the 16 channel monitor version of the Mix Wiz) a set of Sennheiser EW300 IEM G3 for each member, a full microphone package, XLR looms, and a rack mounted 16 channel split snake to patch your lines into the house system. The rack sits off stage so band members can adjust their own levels on stage. This is a functional rig for a band who is only traveling one audio engineer. The cost of something like this is still an investment but much more manageable for a band —including the rate of the engineer pulling double duty.
And what do you think about renting wireless rigs? Any advice on that?
I think its great since Speakeasy Audio provides wireless microphone and In-Ear rentals. As a traveling engineer, it is nice to walk into the venue and having the wireless units set up, patched, and frequencies scanned, and fresh batteries. Just having to test the equipment rather than waiting for the racks come off the truck or trailer, set up, and then test. Saves time during load in.
So again, from a sound-company’s perspective — not as an engineer — just solely from looking at things from a systems-point-of-view, what are the pros and cons of building out a tour based on in-ears? Are there cost savings by not carrying all the wedges and side fills? Labor savings? Anything? Are there any serious benefits that I’m not aware of system-wise or does it all just come down to artist preference? I guess what I’m really asking is are there long-term tangible savings based on the upfront investment of transitioning to in-ears?
It really depends on the tour. Traveling light is always a plus, so just having a wireless In-ear rack doesn’t take up much space during travel and can easily be paced on a plane for one-off events. Everything else can be rented and be waiting for you at the event. There are always technicians with the gear to assist you as well.
Thank you for breaking all that down for us. So let’s shift gears. Are there any other big technological breakthroughs happening in live sound right now?
It’s too much to keep up. It will be outdated in three months.
Where do you see the live sound industry going in the next few years?
We are going to see more pieces of equipment being integrated with others and everything will be ran off I-pads.
Fascinating. And with that, thank you for your time and for sharing your expertise. We’ll see you on the road!
Jojo Vitagliano is the co-founder of Speakeasy Audio and an audio engineer for the Lever and Beam family of artists including Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Charles Bradley and The Menahan Street Band, Antibalas, and The Budos Band. Learn more about Speakeasy Audio and his partner Rob Paliaga by reading the first part of this interview series here.
This interview was originally published by Mike Dias for the Ultimate Ears UE University